Martin Iliev, Krasimir Dinev, Biser Georgiev, Martin Tsonev, Petar Buchkov, Rumyana Petrova, Bayasgalan Dashnyam, Lyubov Metodieva; Sofia Opera Ballet & Orchestra/Pavel Baleff; dir. Plamen Kartaloff (Sofia, 2012)
Dynamic DVD: 37899; Blu-ray: 57899 270 mins
Beware, this is not the music drama that Wagner intended for Bayreuth audiences in 1876. It’s a version which reduces the number of wind players, including the horns, and was prepared by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing in the 1940s for German theatres with small pits.
Not that you can always hear the difference, since the sound of this third instalment of the Sofia Ring is by turns muddy and then uncomfortably bright. Pity the singers who are sometimes recorded off-mike on a set that resembles the contents of a giant donut shop and a stage that is still searching for a lighting designer.
Then there are there the costumes: Siegfried dressed in lurex, glittering sequins and plastic leather for a 1980s night of clubbing in the provinces; Alberich and Mime as a pair of earinged hippies; and Wotan in a hat crowned with angular plastic cones. When we meet Brünnhilde she is wearing more make up than a finalist on RuPaul’s Drag Race. What is it all about? The follies of the consumer society? Who knows – or cares?
Yet there is some very fine singing here. Martin Iliev is a magnificent Siegfried with a properly heroic tone and enviable stamina. More than that, we watch him grow psychologically through three acts. Martin Tsonev’s Wanderer scarcely puts a spear wrong, while Krasimir Dinev’s Mime is a thoroughly nasty piece of work. These are all Bulgarian artists who sing regularly in Sofia. They need to travel. But to travel light leaving Plamen Kartaloff’s Ring at home in Sofia.